Beaver Creek Colorado is a beautiful town just east of Vail on I-70. My brother Pat Matthews was scheduled to paint live in front of the Sportsmans Gallery in Beaver Creek over the July 4th Holiday. Pat is known for his paintings of the American Flag, and the 4th of July weekend is a perfect opportunity for him to paint live in front of an audience that would be in a patriotic mood. It was also the perfect time and location for a Matthews Family reunion that we had planned months in advance. As we packed to get ready for the trip I decided to throw in a couple of Wright & McGill Plunge Fly Rod Combos thinking there may be an opportunity to teach the kids how to fly fish for trout in this Rocky Mountain setting. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.
We arrived Wednesday night and enjoyed a nice dinner of steelhead I had caught the week before. It was enough to feed all 19 members of the Mathews family that were there for the reunion. After dinner we discussed what we wanted to do the following day. I offered to teach anyone interested how to fly fish. My only taker was my son Michael, so the next morning we went down to the local fly shop, Fly Fishing Outfitters, to see if we could find a place to get started.
Be sure to Check in with the guys from Fly Fishing Outfitters in Beaver Creek for good local info!
I asked them about a place to teach a new fly fishermen to cast and they recommended heading over to Nottingham park where there is a lake with lots of open space to learn how to cast. The guys told me that after practicing there were multiple open spots on the Eagle River to catch both Brown & Rainbow Trout. Michael I and went over to the lake and within an hour I felt he was ready for the river.
We drove a few miles down the river and found a nice opening, tied on some size 14 caddis flies and went looking for trout. After about 20 minutes of casting I hooked into a beautiful little Brown Trout. I landed the trout and looked over at Michael. When I saw his face I realized that he had been watching me and was hooked just as deep as
the trout was hooked on my fly. I could tell by the look in his eye that a new fly fisherman had been born. He now had purpose to his casting and his mind was opened up to all of his surroundings. The river looked different to him, the bugs buzzing around his ears took on new meaning, he scrutinized his fly more closely and he could see things that he was blind to before. It was a magical moment that I will never forget because I remember the same instant that I was enlightened to a whole new world of fishing.
It was in 1992 when my Father in Law and famed Montana Guide, Greg Schmidt, took me on a float down the Clark Fork River in Western Montana. I watched Greg make a perfect cast with a tiny fly that I could barely see in the water. Just as my eyes focused in on the fly, a swirl engulfed it. Greg set the hook and a beautiful Rainbow Trout shot out of the water. I only realized my jaw was wide open when it was so full of bugs that I started to choke. That was it, I was hooked and my eyes were opened up to a whole new world that had been there all along, but was hidden to me before that moment.
Michael and I spent another hour along the river with no luck and decided to try a stretch that the guys at Fly Fishing Outfitters had recommended to us. The Eagle River runs through the town Avon and there is a great walking trail that parallels the river. They told us to walk up the trail and look for openings like the one in front of the Westin Hotel. We worked our way up the river without much luck until we reached the Westin Hotel. There is a nice opening there and we waded out and worked our way up the river. I saw a trout rise along the shore about 15 yards ahead of us and I pointed it out
to Michael. He slowly worked his way up and made a perfect cast to the rising trout. At the moment his caddis fly touched down on the water, a trout came up to eat it....Michael had hooked his first trout on a fly! After a short battle Michael landed the 8” Rainbow and his awakening was complete.
The next day we convinced my wife, Ann and son, Thomas to join us for a walk down the river trail to do some more fishing. Ann grew up with a fly fishing guide for a Dad. She spent her Summers floating the Clark Fork, Rock Creek, Blackfoot and Bitterroot Rivers but had not casted a fly rod since her father passed away. We reached a nice opening and Ann walked down to the river and started to fish with our two boys. I could literally see the stress of running a business, raising kids and caring for a mother with dementia
melt away with every cast, replaced by memories of her days on the water with her Dad in beautiful Western Montana. She was more beautiful to me than ever seeing her fly fishing with our boys, showing them how to place place their fly and read the water. It was a magical
moment, healing in every way.
We left the river feeling revived and went to meet my daughter Jessy and her boyfriend at a local brewery in Edwards, CO. called Crazy Mountain Brewery. It was an awesome little place with great beer. I had an IPA which tasted perfect after a morning on the river. I am not sure if the beer was that
good, or if it was the glow of the seeing my family together on the river, either way it tasted like beer is supposed to taste and I enjoyed every sip. The only thing missing was having my youngest daughter Holly with us, but she was horse back riding and I knew she was having fun. After the beer and a quick lunch the girls decided to go into town and the us boys headed back to he river for a couple more hours of fishing.
I watched as Michael,Thomas and Ronnie worked the river for a couple of hours with no luck. It was overcast and the caddis hatch that was so strong the day before, never materialized today. We were getting ready to head back home, when I looked up river and saw Michael’s rod bent with the weight of a fish! I raced up river to get a picture as he stripped in the 12” Brown Trout. We did not have a net so he landed it with his hand and released it back into the river before I could get a picture of the fish. It was a perfect way to end our perfect day.
Back home now in Washington and reflecting on the trip, I realize how much I miss my days in Montana and how healing a day on the water can be. I know that while some fly fishermen were born on this trip, others we re-born and a world that we can all enjoy
together was introduced to us again.
Thanks for reading,